We are happy to announce that we have finally finished and published an 8-week-long mental health programme for EAs on Mental Health Navigator.
The whole programme is composed of the following topics:
- Introduction to Mindfulness and Emotions
- Widening the Circles of Compassion
- Relating to Others
- Imposter Syndrome
- Sustainable Motivation and Preventing Burnout
- Creating a Healthy Community
- Introduction to Well-being and Behavioral Change
How to use this programme?
The format of the programme is very similar to the EA Fellowship. Each week focuses on one topic/workshop. It is also possible to run the workshops individually. Prior to the workshop, the participants are asked to read one chapter of the workbook that corresponds to the workshop's topic.
The workshops are run by facilitators. The facilitators do not have to be mental health specialists, as this programme is not meant to serve as an intervention. It is more about opening the topic, creating a safe space to talk about mental health issues in the community, and enabling peer-to-peer support in the search for well-being and work-life balance.
If you are interested, you can find more information about the programme, its liability, and safety on Mental Health Navigator.
What are the lessons learned that we gained from designing and testing the programme?
(Given the nature and size of the project, we evaluated all the workshops as well as the pilot programme mainly qualitatively via focus groups and in-depth interviews).
First, designing and testing the workshop supported our original hypothesis that there is a demand for activities supporting mental health in the EA community; opening the topic via this project seemed like a good first step. We had many EA members subscribed to our newsletter (around 100 people in total) and have received positive feedback from the participants of the workshops. We were invited to run the workshops at the CARE conference or for the Stanford Existential Risks Initiative. We are currently in contact with different local organisers interested in facilitating the programme in their groups.
Second, it seems that programmes that create space for peer support and target problems prevalent in the community are promising. Indeed, one of the most valuable things of the programme was to enable like-minded people to share and support each other. Being an effective altruist might be challenging in many ways; social support and a safe environment seem to be powerful tools for overcoming these challenges. Thus, we conclude that putting effort into creating materials and activities to support mental health in the community is worth investing our resources in, and we would like to encourage others to focus on that. Given the time we had and the complexity such a project presents, there are surely still improvements to be made. We would be very grateful if it served as a starting point from which others could continue.
I found this episode of Erza Klein Show very helpful in dealing with anxiety -- https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/20/opinion/ezra-klein-podcast-judson-brewer.html
What was the actionable advice?
The two main things that I found useful --
I am reading The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love—Why We Get Hooked and How We Can Break Bad Habits by Judson Brewer (the guest in the show). I think chronicle anxiety is very similar to addictions and the books offers some helpful suggestion in dealing with it using mindfulness.
Is there a plan to run this program virtually anytime soon? I would love to see this as part of EA Virtual Programs.
Hi Augustín, many thanks for your message; we are happy to hear that. We are in contact with EA Virtual Programs. There are already several facilitators who would like to run it virtually out of their own initiative. We have also created a google sheet so people can add their contact if interested in participating.
I might be missing some context here, but could you expand on how you tested the 8 week program and how the workshops you ran at the conferences differ from the program ? e.g. I'd assume you could only cover part of the content in a workshop vs a 8 week program, and the quality of the program might drop if it's not run by your team (even if the purpose is to facilitate peer-to-peer learning).
I'd also be curious to know how you evaluated your pilot workshops e.g. how many participants went through the workshop, what kind of positive feedback participants gave, and how long after the workshop they gave it - and whether you did any follow-up surveys.
Finally a small clarification:
Was this for the mental health navigator in general or specifically for the mental health programme?
Hi Vaidehi, thanks for all your questions.
When designing the programme, we tested each pilot workshop individually at least twice: once offline with participants from the CZEA and once online with participants from our testing group (on average, we had 8 participants per workshop). Evaluating the programme as a whole turned out to be a challenge due to the nature of the product and the interventions, as well as the size of the groups. We hired a methodology expert and decided to evaluate it qualitatively, mainly via:
We plan to do in-depth follow-up interviews with the participants 8-10 months after the programme ended (both interviews and focus groups were conducted by our methodologist).
The participants especially liked and found helpful the following aspects of the programme:
At the conferences, we have facilitated the following workshops (with around 70 participants in total):
We chose workshops that do not need much preparation before the workshop, and the workshops were not changed from those from the programme. The 8-week programme consists of eight topics (one per week), so the workshops can also be given individually without having to change the content significantly (although we do recommend sticking to the 8-week form).
You are right; the workshop quality might drop if our team does not run it. However, it may also go up if facilitated by someone who does it very well. The programme is designed in such a way that it is not too difficult to facilitate, and the quality does not stand or fall with the facilitator.
As we mentioned in the post, there are improvements to be made, and we hope that our effort will serve as a starting point from which others will continue.
The newsletter was specifically for this programme (not EA Mental Health Navigator).